Though it’s hard to imagine it now, there was once a time when the primary function of a cell phone was to make phone calls. Unable to play high-def video or even support a SMS text longer than 160 characters, these chunky plastic phones weren’t generally coveted for their entertainment value. You would use them to call friends, family, or strangers who wanted to buy crack and that was pretty much it. But now, thanks to the new YouTube channel Science Nurd, we can peer into an alternate universe where, in addition to playing marathon games of Snake, people could use early-2000s cell phones to watch feature-length films of the era in depressingly low quality.
Using an Arduino microcontroller, these tech wizards were able to play scenes from Spider-Man, The Matrix, and 300 through a Nokia 5110 (AKA a Nokia brick) in all their no-def, pixelated brilliance. If you’re unfamiliar with the films or which particular scene is being played, it mostly looks like a garbled mess of glitchy GameBoy graphics. But keen-eyed viewers will be able to recognize shapes that vaguely resemble Tobey Maguire and Laurence Fishburne, something that would have been absolutely mind-blowing when these phones originally hit the market.
Luckily, the good people at Science Nurd were kind enough to play the film’s original audio through an exterior source. They likely didn’t want to be held responsible for all the bleeding ears that would have been caused by transforming film dialogue into something resembling a Nokia ringtone.